Pieces of Herself is a piece of electronic literature created by Juliet Davis. The interactive digital media, that I discovered through the website I Love E- Poetry, provides a commentary on the role of women and gender roles in society. The collaborative experience is created through the use of images, text, and sound. On the opening page the reader is met with a cut out of a gray human figure with no gender determining features. The text on this page flows in line by line to leave the message “Her friends said she needed to find herself. And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere…”
When the reader clicks “enter” they are transported to a black and white bathroom scene and the instructions to “Drag and drop pieces onto the body. Then, reposition them as you like.” The line of the poem about the bathroom reads “In the SHOWER ROOM, where women slip behind curtain, in perfect synchronicity, to remain invisible to each other.” As the reader places the cursor over the black and white image they can navigate the room and cause the image to react. These reactions vary from opening a door to making a noise when scrolled over. Colored items are also scattered around the room and when they are dragged onto the cut out body image there is an auditory response. An image of an eye when dragged elicits the response of a song about the “naked eye”, an inscription on the bathroom door responds with a woman saying “he said he loves me”, thumbprints on the trashcan replies with a woman saying “I don’t even let my kids see me naked”, and the image of hair by the shower answers with a women complaining about her graying hair. I think it is interesting that the room we are automatically taken to is the most primal of rooms where the body is the main focus and privacy is valued. At the top of the page there are links to other rooms and places for the reader to explore. Then next room on the list is the bedroom.
When we click on the bedroom link the reader is subjected automatically to a man, clearly the woman’s boyfriend, leaving her multiple messages on her answering machine voicing his concern about their relationship. The next line of the poem reads, “In the BEDROOM, where the mind would sometimes float to the ceiling.” The objects in this room were somewhat un-responsive in comparison to the bathroom. There is a storm cloud that produces thunder, a frog that responds with incessant ribbits, a key that replies with what I would describe as princess music, and some clouds over her pillow that plays a song about dreams.
The next link is to the outside. The reader is met with the image of a church with the image of a fetus to be dragged onto the body. This action is met with a song about a little girl wondering about her future and the mom saying, “whatever will be will be. The future is not ours you see.” As the reader scrolls to the right they see a neighborhood with a daycare and a road that is blocked by a closed road sign. The image of an apple in a tree when dragged onto the body is met with a quote of from the bible when God says the husband should rule over women. The verse and the apple allude to the story of Adam and Eve. The last link is another outside image called Main St. where we see a hospital, a cop car, a high school, and a Dairy Queen. With the interactive items we are met with sound bites of the importance of social lives and appearances. Both outside and Main St. have the same line of poem: “As if she could ever really get ‘outside’” These two images are clearly a powerful commentary on the relationship between outside influences on a women’s life.
After the outside link we come to the kitchen with the line: ”In the KITCHEN where she was forever looking for the right ingredients.” Here the items respond with quotes like “sometimes I want to be spicy” and a woman complaining about her weight. Next is the living room where the poem reads: “In the LIVING ROOM where she sometimes imagined she was someone else.” The television shows reality TV playing and an item of a masquerade mask responds with a women speaking about how her designer clothes and goods that her husband buys her don’t actually represent her on the inside. The next room is the office where the poem says: “In the OFFICE where she fought to keep them all.” At first I was confused about what this line meant, but as I clicked on more items that said things about how showing emotion in the workplace is unacceptable and that women were trying to integrate all the roles in to one, the meaning became clear. The office exemplifies the women moving out of the sphere of the home and housewife and into a working woman. However, these women still try to do it all, be the homemaker, mother, and worker, and are losing a part of themselves in the process.
There were two interesting elements of the interactivity in the entire piece. The first was that once you put an item on the body it could not be removed. To me this represents the author’s idea of the permanence of the effects that society has on a women’s identity. Secondly, on most of the images there was one item that when put on the body would produce a sound on repeat. The constant dripping of a faucet for example was incredibly annoying and caused me to refresh the program and start over. Overall, Pieces of Herself was a successful commentary on the gender role of women.